Salvatore Murtas is a media professional who blogs at The Murtas Collection.
Misery for millions of commuters, entire Tube to a halt, £90 million lost according to Panmure Gordon chief economist, Simon French.
With scenes of thousands of commuters left to overcrowd each train platform and bus stop in London making for a miserable post-Christmas start, last week’s chaos proved that the Mayor with leadership ambitions, Sadiq Khan, is at the mercy of the trade unions.
Not only was he bullied into a last-minute meeting on Sunday night to beg for a strike suspension, but he was then humiliated by his party paymasters with a mass 24h walkout and an all-out halt of the Tube, which brought the capital’s main means of transportation to a standstill, forcing the poor commuters to a hellish day into work… at least those who made it!
Bad fix for the Mayor, whose Zero-hours-strike campaign pledge went down the drain after only a few month in the post, worse fix for Londoners, who have had a reminder of how bitter the Labour medicine tastes.
Though this will no doubt start to tarnish people’s confidence in Khan as an effective leader, as they realize that’s nothing but a façade – especially in the likely case that more strikes are to be called – it is only the latest blunder, yet the most worrying, from the London Mayor who has already set an embarrassing record for breaking his election campaign pledges on other issues such as the TfL fare freeze and the Met police officer numbers.
In a spectacular act of deception, the Mayor did in fact freeze fares, but only for those travelling exclusively by bus or tram and pay-as-you-go journeys on the tube, DLR and rail services, while hundreds of thousands of commuters using travelcards and daily/weekly caps were served with a stodgy two per cent increase come the New Year.
And a similar U-turn was performed over the Met police officer numbers, which the Mayor committed to increase to 32,000 during the campaign, only to propose a £38m savings in his first budget, which will be just enough to keep the force at its current levels of 31,000.
But if these two measures can always be revised, changed or muted well in time for Sadiq’s next career move, the relationship with the unions will define the future of the city and its ability to be a modern, efficient pro-business global hub. The slogan introduced by the Mayor’s office #LondonIsOpen at the dawn of the Brexit vote, today is just that: a slogan. Because the feeling last week was that London was anything but open, certainly not open for business.
Also, the Mayor’s refusal to play a role in the Southern rail dispute was recently exposed by Keith Prince, GLA Conservatives Transport Spokesperson as ‘[a missed] chance we as a city had of taking control of mainline rail in London… He was given an opportunity to help shape the future of mainline rail but, with his pathetic refusal to take a seat at the table, Sadiq Khan has abdicated his responsibility as Mayor.’
So, the cards are on the table. Now that Sadiq has shown all his weakness vis-à-vis the unions, rest assured he’s to be muscled into a deal the terms of which will make the unions more powerful, and the life of London commuters more miserable.
As Khan is kept hostage by the Unions, do you still have any doubt on who’s running the show in London?